Grace Jones and Rick James present Marvin Gaye with Best R&B Male Vocalist Grammy in 1982



Every year, the Grammys catch a lot of flak—for not getting hip-hop right, for missing the mark on…well, just about everything. Even in the past, the Grammys sometimes failed to award the best of the best. Marvin Gaye waited “twenty-something years” to win a Grammy, finally winning in 1982 for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance for “Sexual Healing.” That means that not only was he overlooked throughout the entire ’60s (when Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin dominated, though James Brown managed to get a nod for “Papa Got a Brand New Bag,” his only Grammy), but Gaye was also shunned in 1971 when he released What’s Going On. That year, Bill Withers won Best R&B Song as songwriter for “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Ike & Tina, Lou Rawls, and Aretha Franklin also won that year.

Surely Gaye would have gotten recognition for his 1973 smash hit “Let’s Get It On.” Nope. But Stevie Wonder won Best R&B Song for “Superstition,” which also won for Best R&B Vocal Performance. Well, at least Marvin finally won it. Unfortunately, it just a couple years before his tragic murder. But one of his final live TV appearances would be the 1983 Grammy Awards in which he sang “Sexual Healing.”


Here are some other notable R&B winners through the ’60s and ’70s:

1966 “Soul Man” Sam and Dave
1967 “Dead End Street” Lou Rawls
1967 “Respect” Aretha Franklin
1968 “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” Otis Redding
1968 “Chain of Fools” Aretha Franklin
1969 “It’s Your Thing” Isley Brothers
1970 “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” Delfonics
1970 “The Thrill Is Gone” B.B. King
1972 “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” Temptations
1972 “Young, Gifted and Black” Aretha Franklin
1973 “Midnight Train to Georgia” Gladys Knight and the Pips
1974 “Living for the City” Stevie Wonder
1974 “The Sound of Philadelphia” MFSB
1974 “Tell Me Something Good” Rufus
1974 “Boogie On Reggae Woman” Stevie Wonder
1976 “Lowdown” Boz Scaggs (as songwriter)
1976 “I Wish” Stevie Wonder
(This is where things start falling off, as Leo Sayer wins for “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” in 1977.)
1979 “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” Michael Jackson


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